MCN Columnists
Douglas Pratt

By Douglas Pratt

Couples Retreat

There are, fortunately, a number of secondary players in Couples Retreat, a Universal release, who are funny in a classic, movie bit part sort of way, including Jean Reno, Peter Serafinowicz, Carlos Ponce, and Temuera Morrison, and between them and the Bora Bora location shooting, the 2009 film is not a complete waste of time, but it nearly is. The script is generally illogical and strained, and while the film is ostensibly a romantic comedy, there is very little romance in it that you actually believe. Vince Vaughn, Malin Akerman, Jon Favreau, Kristen Davis, Jason Bateman, Kristen Bell, Faison Loveand Kali Hawk are friends who get a group rate on what they think is going to be a regular resort but what turns out to have an intense couples therapy component, which they all end up taking advantage of, despite themselves. Reno and company play the therapists and resort personnel they come into conflict with. In theory, it’s a great idea, but in execution, it is awkward and unimaginative. At one point, there is a major confrontation where two characters face off against each other in a Guitar Hero competition that goes on, and on, and on. Really, is there anything less exciting than watching movie characters on a screen play Guitar Hero for more than a moment or two? And at the end, the leader of the camp distributes ‘totems,’ as indications that the characters have come to understand their true selves. There is one problem though. Only the men receive the totems. It’s like the women didn’t count.

The picture is presented in letterboxed format only, with an aspect ratio of about 1.85:1 and an accommodation for enhanced 16:9 playback. The colors are bright and sharp. The 5.1-channel Dolby Digital sound has a functional dimensionality. The 114 minute program has alternate French and Spanish tracks in 5.1 Dolby, optional English, French and Spanish subtitles, a 3-minuite blooper reel, 10 minutes of promotional featurettes, and a decent 20 minutes of deleted, extended and alternate scenes, including an ending that would have made one ending too many. Vaughn and director Peter Billingsley provide a commentary track over those scenes and the film, sharing a bit about putting the production together and working with the performers, but also talking a lot about what is happening on the screen. Billingsley erases forever the innocence of his Ralphie persona during the final credit scroll. “At the very end, there’s one last scene, a little thing we did about the Federal Reserve. A lot of American patriots are tired of standing by idly and are speaking up about the Fed.”

– by Douglas Pratt

Douglas Pratt’s DVD-Laser Disc Newsletter is published monthly.
For a free sample, call (516)594-9304 or go to his website at

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon